White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly thinks Mexico could descend to Venezuela’s level as a borderline failed state.
Kelly has extensive experience monitoring the security environment in Mexico, first as the commanding general of the U.S. military command responsible for Latin America and then as President Donald Trump’s homeland security secretary.
Based on his evaluation of Mexico’s security situation and political stability, Kelly believes there is a real danger the country’s government could collapse under the weight of brutal drug cartel violence and intractable corruption, according to a New York Times report.
Kelly laid out his assessment Wednesday during a White House meeting about a legislative replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As the discussion turned to border security measures that could be included in an amnesty bill, Trump called Kelly into the meeting to offer his take on the situation.
The chief of staff, who has repeatedly warned about the dangers posed by cross-border cartel activity, said tighter border enforcement and a stouter barrier were needed to deflect criminal activity from America’s southern neighbor. Kelly reportedly compared Mexico to Venezuela, suggesting it was on the verge of a collapse that would be felt north of the border, two people that attended the meeting told TheNYT.
Mexico has seen a disturbing rise in drug cartel-related violence in recent years, as competition among warring factions of formerly dominant cartels, and between newly ascendant criminal organizations, has pushed homicide rates to their highest in two decades. (RELATED: State Department Upgrades Mexico Travel Warning As Violence Surges In Tourist Hotspots)
The struggle for control of heroin trafficking routes and distribution nodes, known as “plazas,” is a prime driver of the violence, according to security analysts. America’s insatiable appetite for cheap opioids provides an irresistible opportunity for up-and-coming drug traffickers or splinter groups, who are willing to use extreme violence to push out established organizations. Today, north of 90 percent of all heroin trafficked into the U.S. comes from Mexico, according to the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.
Trump insists that a wall along the southwest border is needed to stanch the northward flow of drugs and criminals. When he was Department of Homeland Security chief, Kelly agreed with the president about the need for beefed-up security, though he tended to emphasize measures such as drone surveillance, motion sensors and increased manpower as a more practical, cost-effective solution.
It remains unclear what border security enhancements will be attached to a bill that enshrines DACA protections into law. The White House says a border wall remains an immediate priority, but Trump suggested Thursday that a push for wall funding would come after a legislative fix for DACA that would include unspecified “massive” border security measures.
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